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29.1.17

The Rambam's four fold way. Learning the Written Law (Old Testament), the Oral Law (the two Talmuds), Modern Physics, and the Metaphysics of Aristotle.

To understand any thinker it is usually necessary to understand their background and what they were reacting against. But then not to limit them to just a reaction.

The idea is similar to Kant. In his city there were people that were very pious and others that were super rational. And on the larger world that he was born into there was a school of the rationalists like Spinoza and Leibniz and another school of empiricists. like Locke and Hume. But I do not limit Kant's insights to mere reaction but that reaction caused a spark to ignite. His search for a ground of validity in both schools gave the spark that created the three great Critiques.

So with the Rambam. He also wanted to find a path that synthesized Reason and Revelation and not just find a middle path. 

In a similar way my own thinking is thus: I want to find out what is the service of God? And after I know that I want to know what is the service of God with מיסרת נפש [self sacrifice]? And after that I would like to share with others my insights. My own conclusions are largely a reaction to the world I found myself in.

That is to say: I was in yeshivas in NY which more or less concertized and personified the Nefesh HaChaim [נפש החיים]of Reb Chaim from Voloshin (disciple of the Gra). That is.-- yeshivas that accepted the basic idea of the Gra that the prime service of God is to learn Torah. Though one must keep all the commandments, still the focus should be on learning Torah and then everything else good will flow from that.

On the other hand I also saw a world of events after my divorce that got me thinking there must some ways that that yeshivish approach is right, and in some ways it is missing out on something.
While this was going on I returned to Israel and noticed the Guide of the Rambam in a Beit Midrash in Ramot Gimel that said something that got me interested  לא הצם והמתפלל הוא הנרצה אלא היודעו (Not he who fasts and prays is desirable rather he who knows Him.). Over  the years I was in Israel at the time the ideas of the Rambam began to crystallize in me and though I might have been vaguely aware of his ideas before that, during my time in Israel it became more and more clear that he was on a slightly different track than Reb Chaim from Voloshin and that his track also had some ground of validity.

So to a large degree my own ideas of what is the service of God come as trying to find what is valid in both approaches. 

My set of experiences I take as a background to understanding this question and I take my own experiences as empirical evidence. Ad Hominem what kinds of people are on one path or the other is not an irrelevant consideration when it comes to the service of God. It cant be the entire  determining issue but it must not be ignored. 

That I hoe gives to anyone reading this a bit of understanding in what way I arrived at my basic approach which more or less centers on the Rambam's four fold way. Learning the Written Law (Old Testament), the Oral Law (the two Talmuds), Modern Physics, and the Metaphysics of Aristotle.
That is to say I did not arrive at this by picking up a rabbit  out of a hat. Not by going "Ei Mini Mini Mo"closing my eyes and picking something that appealed to me at random. Rather this came as a long process of observation of myself and others and close consideration of the different opinions involved.


Appendix:
{1}Getting divorced was very important to this process because it showed me how people act towards someone that has no social status as opposed to someone that has social status and money that they want. Being "down and out' is the best way to see the reality of what people are like as very different from what they say and pretend. 
{2} My path is not only the Rambam. The whole Gra thing is very important in terms of the prime mitzvah being the learning of Torah
Also in terms of learning in depth, not just the Gemara but the Rambam also. That is the whole school of Reb Chaim Soloveitchik and his disciples and Rav Elazar M. Shach.  But I also see the great importance of Rav Kook and the State of Israel--which many great people in the Torah world did  not see.



(3) I learned the hard way that the  religious world is  place to stay as far from as possible in order to survive [Unless we are talking about the great Litvak Yeshivas in Bnei Brak and New York.]. [They talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. Acta non verba.] But I also realized the importance of the Gra and the Rambam and Reb Israel Salanter. I think it is possible that my choice to go to authentic Litvak yeshivas in NY and then to Israel made all the difference.